Statement on the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Plans to Grant Autocephaly to Ukrainian Schismatics

On September 17, 2018, we published the news piece, “Greek Metropolitan Calls on Constantinople to Repent and Cease Communication with Ukrainian Schismatics,” presenting thoughts from Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythira and Antikythera on the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s ongoing dealings with Ukrainian schismatics, with the intention of granting a tomos of autocephaly and thereby creating a new Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The Ecumenical Patriarchate announced on September 7 that he was sending two exarch bishops to Kiev to oversee and facilitate this process—an uncanonical action, as no blessing was sought from nor given by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In response, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church announced on September 14 that it was ceasing liturgical commemoration of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and episcopal concelebrations, and that the Russian Orthodox Church was withdrawing from any organizations or committees chaired or co-chaired by representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Synod was also clear that this is not a break in Eucharistic communion.

We now present here the full text of Met. Seraphim’s interview with Alexander Stefanopoulos, a Greek journalist in New York, for his “Greek American News Agency” and posted on Met. Seraphim’s diocesan website:

I am deeply upset, dear Mr. Alexander Stefanopoulos, by the Russian Patriarch’s cessation of ecclesiastical communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch.1 This sad and unfortunate result was brought about by the Patriarchate of Constantinople’s persistence in granting autocephaly to Ukrainian schismatics who are cut off from our holy Orthodox Church, that is, from all Orthodox patriarchates and autocephalous Local Orthodox Churches, and who represent a negligible minority of the Ukrainian people.

Until recently, the Ecumenical Patriarchate recognized only the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the omophorion of Metropolitan Onuphry, and now, for his own personal reasons, he is giving autocephaly to the schismatics of Ukraine and disdaining the canonical Orthodox Archdiocese of Ukraine, which is the only one recognized by the Russian Orthodox Church and the other Local Orthodox Churches.

Schismatics, as we know, are not the Church, and communion with them is forbidden by the Divine and sacred canons (of the apostles and those adopted by the Ecumenical Councils). Why then this persistence of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in recognizing schismatics as an autocephalous Church and provoking schisms and divisions in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ? Have we really not had enough already with the agitations, storms, and unrest that were caused and are still being caused by the resolutions of the so-called “Holy and Great Council” on Crete (in June 2016) and its designation of “Churches” for heterodox confessions and communities? Has not this so-called “Holy and Great Council” been surpassed by the recent decision of the Patriarchal Synod of Constantinople that allows second marriages for priests under certain conditions? Does not the final text of “The Sacrament of Marriage and Its Impediments” put forth by the Council literally state in the fourth paragraph of the obstacles to marriage: “Priesthood in itself does not constitute an impediment to marriage, but in accordance with the prevailing canonical tradition (Canon 3 of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council), after ordination entrance into marriage is forbidden” to clerics?2

We appeal, Mr. Stefanopoulos, with a fervent request and heartfelt plea from the edges of our Greek Motherland, the Metropolis of Kythira and Antikythera, to the First Patriarch of our Orthodox Church that he would “take a step back” in order to avoid new schisms and divisions in the all-holy Body of Christ, in our holy Orthodox Church.

Instead of the joint prayers he organizes recently with the Pope of Rome and representatives and heads of heterodox confessions and communities and with the representatives of other religions, which are not only completely useless but also tempt the plenitude of Orthodox Christians, should he not rather preach repentance and the return of the entire Orthodox Christian world to the faith which was once delivered unto the saints (Jude 3), to the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, the holy apostles, the venerable and God-bearing fathers of the holy Ecumenical Councils of the Church, and, on the whole, to Orthodox Tradition? That is how I would answer in brief, Mr. Stefanopoulos, the question you put to me. I also wholeheartedly desire reason for all those leading our Holy Church and that they would with all vigilance deter and overcome the coming spiritual crisis, and also overcome its painful consequences for the unity of the holy Orthodox flock of Christ, because we all know the words of the holy hierarch John Chrysostom, that “the sin of schism is not purged even by martyr’s blood.”

About the author

Metropolitan Seraphim (Stergioulos) of Kythira and Antikythera was born in 1950. In 1978 he graduated with a master’s degree from the Faculty of Theology of Thessaloniki University with a specialty in Systematic Theology. From 1979 to 2005 he served as an official preacher of the Metropolis of Aegina. In 2005 he was elected and consecrated as a bishop and appointed as the metropolitan of Kythira.

Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythira and Antikythera
Translated by Jesse Dominick


1 As the introduction to this article states, His Patriarch Kirill has ceased liturgical commemoration of His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, but Eucharistic communion has not been broken between the two Churches.—Trans.

2 The Ecumenical Patriarchate considers the Council of Crete to be binding on all Orthodox Churches and Christians, and yet it has directly contradicted its statement on clerical marriage.—Trans.

Fr. James Rosselli9/29/2018 12:08 pm
The Ecumenical Councils delineate the position and prerogatives of the Patriarch of Constantinople (who is nowhere in the canons, at least not that I have seen, called "All" Holiness or "Ecumenical" Patriarch). Given that, it is difficult to understand how, or why, Pat. +Bartholomew constructed his vision of his office. It seems grandiose.

Preserving what's left of the Pentarchy, and retaining the position of honor of Constantinople,. would be a good thing. But Orthodoxy is not, and never was, set up to accommodate a monarchial papacy. It couldn't accommodate Rome when it went that way, and it can't accommodate Constantinople now. May God have mercy on us.
Matthew9/21/2018 9:58 pm
I completely agree with Anthony on this one! Why in the world does the rest of the Orthodox world give so much credence and false respect to a man and a chair that has done nothing but damage to the Holy Orthodox Church since the fall of Tsar Nicholas II? Do you not see that by giving him his false authority, we are only enabling him? Do you not see that this man and his "bishops" are full of godless and god-hating pomp, pride, malice and envy? Why do you help them by giving them dignity that they do not deserve? Would the EP be able to do the damage it did in the false and pathetic Crete council if the Orthodox world would have condemned him sooner? NO! "Do you love me? shepherd my sheep!"
Anthony9/21/2018 8:53 pm
Hi! What I don't get is this: the Orthodox Church has always followed Truth and never deviated. So. Everything that his Eminence has written points to the phanar being a rotten branch on the vine The Church has two options. To let the rotten part continue to infect the whole vine, or to cut off the infection so the rest can flourish. Why do so many think that retaining Communion with the heretical phanar is a better option to simply anathematising him? Ayios Paisios says the devil fights people in three ways: the poor by enticing them with communism, the rich with masonry and the religious with ecumenism. Do you see the correlation - all works of the devil which the phanar is involved in!!!!
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